Why is Portland Called Rip City?

By Kathryn Walsh

The trailblazing reason for Portland's sporty nickname

Why is Portland Called Rip City?

Ask any 10 strangers on the streets of Portland how the city got the nickname Rip City, and you'll probably face at least nine blank stares. While residents of the Oregon city have great pride in Portland's identity as Rip City, the nickname dates back to the early 1970s, so many younger residents aren't sure of the origins. But here's the thing: Even Rip City residents who know how the city got its nickname still aren't sure what it means. It all goes back to a spontaneous comment made by a guy named Bill Schonely about the Portland Trail Blazers, the city's NBA team. Considering that it remains a rallying cry for passionate Portlanders, you could say the name stuck.

Rip City: an origin story

It was February of 1970. (Some sources say 1971, but the man who coined the name has stated it happened in 1970.) The location: Veterans Memorial Coliseum, then the home arena for the Trail Blazers. The Blazers were playing their biggest rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers. At one point, Portland was down by more than 20 points, but the team started making shots, inching closer and closer to tying the Lakers. By the second half, the Blazers were down by just two points, when a player named Jim Barnett sank a difficult shot to tie the game.

Thrilled by the development, play-by-play announcer Bill Schonely yelled "RIP CITY!" into the microphone in his excitement. Later, he wasn't able to explain exactly why he chose those words, but they quickly caught on. Today, Portland fans still celebrate being part of Rip City, and you'll see and hear the phrase occasionally if you visit the city. If you see the Trail Blazers play, however, you can bet on hearing the phrase constantly.

Luckily something good came of that fateful game, because in the end, the Blazers lost.

Let it rip: cheering on the Blazers

Want to experience the kind of play that inspired that famous call so many years ago? If you want to cheer on the Trail Blazers (or root for their opponents), you'll find them playing home games at the Moda Center. The venue is located in the entertainment district known as the Rose Quarter, on the eastern banks of the Willamette River.

Parking at the Moda Center is time-consuming and pricey (around $20). Luckily, Portland has public transportation options that reach the Moda Center, including three lines of the MAX Light Rail and the city's streetcar system. Want to blend in with the crowd? Wear the team's colors: red and black.

More sports in Portland

The Trail Blazers blazed the trail for using the name Rip City, but it's become synonymous with Portland itself, so you might also hear the name referenced in relation to the city's other major sports franchise: the Portland Timbers, a Major League Soccer team. Professional soccer doesn't garner much attention in most American cities, but it's a Very Big Deal in Portland, and it's not uncommon for home games to sell out.

The team plays at Providence Park, an outdoor stadium in the city's Goose Hollow neighborhood. Even though it's open to the elements and the team plays rain or shine, don't expect a drizzle to ruin your plans to see a game. Most seats are covered by a large overhang, so fans can stay (mostly) dry. Plan to take the MAX Light Rail or a bus to Providence Park, or walk there, because parking is limited. Wear green to fit in with the passionate home crowd.

About the Author

Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.